back to article Why Microsoft absolutely DOESN'T need its own Steve Jobs

Microsoft is a company in transition. Speculation is rampant and everyone in the IT industry seems to have a strong opinion on what Microsoft should – and shouldn't – do. Analysts are increasingly lumping PCs in with mobile devices, a trend that's decidedly bad for Microsoft. Others remain sceptical of the practice and seem to …

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  1. tropolite

    I have the same notion. MS must steer clear of the 'Jobs' be all end all identity.

    There are a load of smart heads in each department and I believe it is up to the new CEO to purely oversee and ensure each of these departments are stepping in sync with each other and communicating between divisions. MS is huge and there are many divisions.

    Done correctly there is a huge future in Microsoft and it definitely isn't dead in the water just because there's a form factor change. I say GO FOR IT Microsoft! Show the naysayers what you can pull together as far as a mature ecosystem that thrives. The seeds are in place, just pick up the pace a little more.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      'huge future in Microsoft'

      As a life long MS developer I disagree. In fact you made me write:

      ..................... An Open Letter to Microsoft:

      Question: When was the last time I as a developer was rewarded by Microsoft for helping push its product base?... Answer: It was over a decade ago when MS gave out free Pocket PC's.... MS were actually one of the first to push Mobile... Who knew! So what happened? In short, nothing, because as always MS didn't engage with folks on the ground, so it never took off for them.

      MS turned their backs on their core sales partners by cutting sales incentives, and hurt core developers by ditching qualifications and developer tools. MS pushed .Net not because their hearts were in it, but because senior execs were envious of the Java model. Now they want to turn away again and go back to JS / Html etc..... 'If you stand by the river long enough, you will see the body of your enemy float by'... Should we go and dust off Visual studio 6?

      Server Products are where MS continues to stand tall, but in retail there hasn't been any new ideas in forever! No ideas with any real utility anyway, just change for the sake of change. They cynically changed Office ala the Ribbon and the Win8 UI to usher in a new era of lock-in. But it didn't wash this time, because MS doesn't have the tribal fan-base of the likes of Apple. But the greatest self-inflicted wound was to play the Great Emperor card far too long and play into the hands of Dr. Google, and now Dr Evil are the new MS. Go figure! Who saw that one coming!

      MS has also shown itself to be completely untrustworthy regarding user privacy. It practically bent over for the NSA, but it took comfort that it wasn't alone, with the usual suspects getting onboard too. However, the new Xbox has seriously stepped over the creepy line with privacy concerns beamed directly into ones living room. Not even the others have over-stepped that mark except for LG maybe! In addition, the extra Xbox cost is too high for hardcore gamers that won't benefit from a Kinect. So yes, MS will continue to make big money out of locked-in corporates for a long time, but on the retail side it will continue to blow-up because its POV is so skewed it sees Trusted Computing as a desirable user feature!

      I got started in this game studying for a Comp-Sci degree and tinkering with Minix etc. So I know that I can change, and I know that I can migrate to Linux and FOSS and thus herald my own era of micro-freedom. And of course I'll still keep some old VM's for the useful Office stuff. But from here on I'm incredibly motivated to break away... I've worked for a selection of Fortune 500 shops and still have many contacts there and will be actively sought out to advise and consult and influence... But this time I wont be wielding the MS flag....

  2. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    Fully agree with the original.

    One thing has been clear in MS that inter-department infighting has fragmented any possibility of a coherent vision. Steve Jobs had a unique place in Apple. Unless Bill Gates comes back(and he won't) they need a CEO who can fight the big beasts in the company and break down the internal barriers. Getting rid of stack ranking was a much needed step, but happened much too late.

    Another thing they need to look at is why the pipeline from MS research to products is so slow or even non-existent. MS spent huge amounts on attracting the best talent, but as far as I can see they have got little from it. Ideas such as the two screen tablet and the table surface interface have raised there heads then been killed off, almost certainly due to department heads protecting their fiefdoms. Any new CEO must have a vision and be willing to go for it even if it means affecting the bottom line of their twin cash cows, desktop and office. I don't who that person is, but its a tough ask

    1. fung0

      Absolutely right about Apple - it's Google that's winning the race, and doing so because it's offering the virtues that used to be Microsoft's, such as (relative) openness and responsiveness.

      There once was a unified vision at Microsoft: to deliver the hottest technology to the user, faster and cheaper than anyone else. There are many examples. Support for the 386 processor. Protected-mode multitasking. Big memory and 64-bit processing. The Windows PC succeeded because it offered more horsepower, sooner and cheaper than the competition. It was never the sexiest, but it was always the best overall value. Now Ballmer has become dazzled by overpriced consumer devices, forgetting that it was power, not pizzazz, that made Microsoft successful.

      Ballmer's tenure at the helm has been dubbed "Microsoft's lost decade". An unflattering term that is misused by many who blithely ignore that Ballmer's tenure still saw Microsoft grow profits by an average of over 15 per cent per year to a company with a net income of $23bn. We should all hope to fail so well.

      Baloney. Ballmer reaped those profits by allowing the company to coast on momentum. Now the momentum is gone, and competitors who kept their foot on the gas are far ahead. Ballmer allowed Windows and Office to languish, while turning a huge lead in mobile devices (including both handhelds and tablets) into a total disaster. That's not the kind of FAIL anyone should aspire to.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        If my company could "coast" for a decade, growing profits year over year by 15% I would be quite content. Alternately, a net income of $23bn would be...desirable.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: "coast" for a decade, growing profits year over year by 15%

          I think this statement sums up part of the problem. As a business MS has these last ten years or so been focused on increasing net profits rather than investing in a whole bunch of stuff like Amazon are doing and so declare a much smaller or negative net profit.

          1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

            Re: "coast" for a decade, growing profits year over year by 15%

            I don't particularly disagree...but look how many major companies tanked in those ten years, hmm? Even if all he could do was "coast" to 15% year-over-year, that's way better than most of the industry. Credit - and criticism - where it's due. Ballmer deserves a large helping of both.

            1. P. Lee

              Re: "coast" for a decade, growing profits year over year by 15%

              I'm curious to know if people/business feel if every price rise corresponds to a rise in benefit from using MS products.

              Slap on a new GUI and make you buy it again in order to keep using exchange, isn't a feature I'm interested in. The question is not 'are there wizzbang new features' but 'do I want/need the new features?'

              I suspect the answer for most people (for pc's and increasingly for phones) is 'not enough to pay for it.'

              With the office365 stuff I get the impression that the profit increases are short-term. People are unprepared to switch, but when they do it will hurt MS. When they can no longer sweat the assets because the don't own them, the global economic crunch will come home to MS and those who who sell enabling tech - you can't keep increasing prices when your customers aren't.

              1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                Re: "coast" for a decade, growing profits year over year by 15%

                From your keyboard manipulating digits to the Redmondian ether, sir. Amen.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    SJ did have one thing right

    When he said Microsoft have no taste. I still can't believe they expect people to buy their products when they have a proven track record of producing nothing but utter shit. And that has been going on for nearly thirty years.

    The problem with Win 8 is that it is trying to bend the laws of the universe, and you just can't do that Jim. Stuffing a full PC into a machine the size of a thin paperback with enough oomph to run Office and Photoshop and any number of programs while having a battery that lasts for more than ten hours AND costs less than an iPad.... Even if they would have been able to make it, there would be no room for profit.

    They were either tool lazy, or too incompetent. As SJ said, good design is about saying no. Three different runtimes for phones, tablets, and Xbox? No. Forcing a non-proven UI that no one wants onto your mainstream OS? No. Offering a low-cost(-ish) tablet whose USP is an office suite that isn't even ready for use on a touchscreen devices? No.

    If they had covered those points (plus several other ones) then they would have stood a chance, but they don't care, they have never cared about quality because they never had to. Every time when they had to compete with a company that did put in some effort they either had to spend billions (Xbox), or lose (Kin, PlaysforSure, Zune, Windows Mobile, I could go on...).

    Microsoft isn't going to go away, but they will never be able to enter the consumer market unless financed by their business unit. Here's hoping their new CEO will see that and start cutting off those parts that bring nothing but embarrassment.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: SJ did have one thing right

      "Microsoft isn't going to go away, but they will never be able to enter the consumer market unless financed by their business unit"

      I don't think it is the money at all. - the problem they have is that they don't have a visionary CEO who can see the world through the eyes of customers (or employ somebody who can, and then listen to them). In many ways the article is right about managing change, but the reason that Microsoft messed up is because they wouldn't see the world as the customer sees it, and they wouldn't listen during (eg) the extensive beta testing of either Vista or W8. In both cases the testers flagged up everything that was not to like, and in both cases MS ignored them. And I think that's what SJ did bring - he didn't realy on beta testers because he had a flair for knowing (mostly) what would sell at a good margin, by understanding what people want, often before they could articulate that themselves. I'm no Apple fan, I own none of their products, but I'd argue that under SJ they made great not good products. Microsoft make good not great products, and that's a lack of visionary zeal, and that's why they do need their own Steve Jobs. Not to become an Apple, but to make Microsoft produce great stuff that people want to buy, rather than believing they have to buy it.

      At the moment we're still stuck with the old non-listening, good-not-great Microsoft: I have previously railed against Win 8.1, maintaining it should have been a service pack under Windows Update, and bleating on about how I wasn't going to use the Windows app store etc etc. And I owe Microsoft an apology: It automatically came up that 8.1 was available, would I like it, and then downloaded in the background and installed with commendably little fuss. I'm sorry, Microsoft. BUT....8.1 doesn't do enough for those of us who don't like TIFKAM (which I acknowledge works fine for many people). They've begrudgingly added in a start button that doesn't give me cascading menus, so Classic Shell has gone back on. And I'm therefore forced to conclude that they still aren't listening or thinking like customers. How can adding a start button that doesn't do much useful involve a 3.5 Gb download? I'd hope there's a lot more clever stuff been done within that 3.5 Gb, but even taking my hat off that (on a fast broadband connection) it was a completely painless "upgrade", why?

      It would be nice to think the new CEO will bring something new, but how many of the candidates are real entrepreneurs, or have produced magical products? They all look big corporate types, who have been paid fat salaries for too long to be driven and hungry. All will come in with restructuring plans, sack thousands, move management around. Will any make great products? I doubt it.

      1. Amorous Cowherder

        Re: SJ did have one thing right

        " I don't think it is the money at all. - the problem they have is that they don't have a visionary CEO who can see the world through the eyes of customers (or employ somebody who can, and then listen to them). "

        To me this has MS all along. They have some very smart people, some great ideas but they just can't get their act together to get the to things working. They reek of the same mind-set they had back around 1988 when DOS was king, that somehow they could do as they wish and everyone would fall in line as everyone only had a PC on their desk. The world has changed and we consume media and information from so many sources. Sometimes we may use a phone while we're out, back home on the sofa, whip a tablet. Serious stuff we jump on the laptop or desktop. Sometimes we may use all three devices more or less at the same time and we pretty much need to be able to quickly have the ability to use them without any problems. MS can't see that.

        Much as Apple Corp irk me you can't fault their ability to see what people want, design it and flog it to them, even if most of the customers don't realise they need it. They offer a range of devices that compliment each other, you use one you pretty can use any of the others. Somehow they've manage to stoke up the right crowd to get cachet and consumer loyalty that most corps will almost literally kill for.

        MS need to shake off that monolithic, 1988 mindset and actually start looking at the what is happening out in the world. Or at the very least, fire their researchers 'cos they obviously don't seem to have a clue about what's happening out here and MS are following their advice!

    2. robin thakur 1

      Re: SJ did have one thing right

      It's funny you said that, I thought of that line from SJ when I first saw Windows 8's Metro interface. Microsoft have no taste. For anybody from a design background, this has been abundantly apparent throughout their products for a very long time. I think you are onto something when you say they never really feel they have to compete. MS has always had the business Windows/Office/Exchange/SharePoint/CRM revenues to fall back on, but I think their various mistepps from Vista onwards, a plateaus in software and hardware demands, lack of presence in Mobile and BYOD causing Apple devices to come into the organisation has caused a perfect storm for them which they might struggle to recover from. They certainly don't feel as infallible as they used to and many people I know both at work and home now don't use Microsoft at all, and that used to be very rare indeed. I think that the failure of the Surface has been a good case study in things they are shooting themselves in the foot with.

      As you said, no touch enabled (as in designed from the ground up for touch) version of Office 2013/365 included or available at launch, or a year later, is totally unforgivable:, that would have been a killer feature in the enterprise! When we tested out the Surfaces, you could see the disappointment on people's faces with what Redmond had come up with, and we rapidly started buying iPads again. It's a similar story wherever you look. Why does Outlook behave different to every other Office product with regards to saving to SharePoint and why haven't MS fixed that and other key Sharepoint "design decisions" over a period of *years*. If their own products don't even work together well, it just looks bad. People have become used to MS's screwing things up.

      Of course, the damage to the company right now does not seem obvious, it didn't with RIM either, but MS's whole business model will need to be rebalanced, given the trends and where we are heading. Other than software EOL forcing companies to upgrade, what compelling reasons are there to upgrade Windows, Office and the rest when almost as good much cheaper or free options exist? All of their profitable divisions are relying on markets in a current state of flux, from the Xbox (competing with iOS games costing pennies and an erosion of dedicated home consoles) to Windows and Office, their best strategy might be to move to an IBM model as their enterprise server products are still generally well respected.

  4. Wibble
    Windows

    A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

    Never quite understood whether the new user interfaces being foisted on us are because *we* (the punters) lack vision to understand it, or *they* are just being arrogant and treating us like cash cow cattle.

    It does seem that Microsoft's corporate culture is stuck in the past; we won the browser wars (yes granddad, but you lost it all in the end).

    1. Sean Timarco Baggaley

      Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

      "Never quite understood whether the new user interfaces being foisted on us are because *we* (the punters) lack vision to understand it, or *they* are just being arrogant and treating us like cash cow cattle."

      It's the former. Windows 8.x replaced the rather weird Start Menu with a proper app launcher, which also runs big widgets. All the keyboard shortcuts – which everyone calling themselves a seasoned veteran or professional should know – are unchanged. ALT+F4 will close a ModernUI app just as it closes a conventional Windows GUI app, for example.

      There are textbooks on this. Many of them written as far back as the late '60s and early '70s, when the R&D phase for the WIMP desktop metaphor we still see on desktop GUIs today was still in its infancy.

      That the above is clearly a surprise to many so-called "professionals" is shocking to me; it was very basic stuff when I was studying Computer Science in the 1980s.

      1. Wibble
        Mushroom

        Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

        > replace the rather weird start menu

        Unfortunately with something that completely distracts one and looses one's context in the task at hand. The Start Menu may have been weird, but was functional. The start page with all it's irrelevant flashing nonsense is utterly unusable and is downright unproductive. IMHO.

        > ALT+F4 to close a TIFKAM app

        How the fuck am I supposed to know that? Worse still how on earth is *everyone* supposed to know that? You may as well have told me to run ps -ef 'poxy_app' | kill -123 What's wrong with a [X] in the upper right-hand corner? And why can't I run these damnable apps in windowed mode?

        Jeez

        1. fixit_f

          Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

          "How the fuck am I supposed to know that?"

          I have RSI so I use keyboard shortcuts a lot, but I thought a lot of them were pretty common knowledge. Alt-F4 is one of the basics I thought, it's up there with alt-space or alt-tab. Everyone knows that closes a window, consistently, on most window managers - don't they?!

          Let's have a poll - upvote = "I knew alt-f4 did that", downvote = "I didn't know"

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

            I didn't know it. TIFKAM looks and acts completely differently to the classic desktop, why would I (or most people) expect classic desktop shortcuts to work?

            For a start there are no windows in TIFKAM, what Alt-F4 does in TIFKAM is close the program, which is different.

            1. Renato

              Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

              Alt-F4 always closed programs. Ctrl-F4 closes windows.

          2. Wibble

            Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

            You may know, but the User Interface doesn't expose this. There are principles of User Interface discoverability which TIFKAM drives a horse & cart through.

            Which is the point: Microsoft seem to be like a little dog with a bone - we must get the tablet market back. But they're completely ignoring their massive user base which will couldn't care less about touch screens: those people who use a computer at work. TIFKAM on a large screen is ridiculous. Then reading "swipe up from the left" when I'll never have a large-scale touch screen is just ignorant.

            Vision or arrogance? More like ignorance and infatuation.

            1. John H Woods

              Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

              " There are principles of User Interface discoverability which TIFKAM drives a horse & cart through."

              Absolutely. I know fine that the charms menu slides in from the middle right when I go to the top right or bottom right corners, but i still find myself putting the mouse in the middle of the right hand edge momentarily, before remembering that its origin is not its trigger.

          3. Captain Queeg

            Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

            The problem with shortcut key presses is context. The whole point of a GUI should be simplicity with visual clues and obvious solutions to all major events (closing an application is pretty fundamental and as has been said, an X in the corner is more or less perfect - simple, unobtrusive and intuitive).

            Expecting "professionals" or anyone else to learn keyboard shortcuts by wrote is bordering on enforcing a CLI. MS are either in the GUI business or reverting to CLI. Either is valid and both have strengths, but MS have it wrong.

            It seems to me that the mess that is/was metro is neither fish nor foul and MS seem to have managed to harness the raw professional power of the GUI and married it to the intuitive simplicity of the Command Line. - Madness!

          4. Nicole D.

            Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

            "How the fuck am I supposed to know that?"

            Oh please. How are you supposed to know that Ctrl-v will paste? The c in Ctrl-c makes some mnemonic sense. But (and this is not a complaint) why is Ctrl-z undo? And why -- oh god, please, WHY? -- with Ctrl-z being one of the easiest single-hand key combos, did Ctrl-y, one of the most difficult, ever become redo, possibly the second most important command in all of computing? And why do some popular softwares still insist on Ctrl-y without also implementing Ctrl-Shift-z?

            Weird key combs are not the problem.

            Almost forgot... that's Command if you're on a Mac.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

              Well that's just it. Windows 'stole' the shortcuts, which is why Ctrl-W will still close documents (on the Mac it's Cmd-W for docs, Cmd-Q for apps).

              Having the command key to either side of the spacebar means that every key on the keyboard is within easy reach. Just try pressing Alt-Y, or Alt-W.

              It is (close to) moronic that copying and pasting involves the following sequence:

              Ctrl-C

              Alt-Tab

              Ctrl-V

              Unless you're an acrobat, I have to rearrange the position of my hand THREE times. On a Mac, it would be:

              Cmd-C

              Cmd-Tab

              Cmd-V

              I can do all of those while keeping my thumb on the control key. And don't even get me started on the most useless key of all, the 'Context-Menu' key which does exactly....what? Thank God my IBM Model M doesn't have these newfangled aberrations....

            2. Charles Manning

              Can't equate CrtlC/V with Ctrl-F4

              Short cuts work for things you do often, not for things you do once in a blue moon.

              Copy/paste is often used and thus CtrlC/V is quickly learned.

              Ctrl-F4 is very seldom doing to be used and is rather obscure. Chances are very few people would know it.

      2. a cynic writes...

        Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

        Sean, I agree with most of that except the first sentence. MS came up with an app launcher for perfectly decent reasons but they inflicted it on the user base in the way they did out of pure arrogance.

        A while ago I wrote: "...I reckon a fair few of my users would be happy with TIFKAM if they discovered it for themselves. If I imposed it by diktat - not a chance." Nothing I've seen since then has made me change my mind.

        What I'd like to see is a drop down at logon so you could choose between "Classic" and "Modern". I'm not holding my breath.

      3. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

        Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance

        "There are textbooks on this. Many of them written as far back as the late '60s"

        Upvote for a discussion-provoking comment. However, it is quite wrong, or even worse, right in a wrong way.

        Yes, some UI principles from 60's are back, garnered with a LSD-inspired colour palette. Many productivity enhancements made in the boring decades are suppressed. Instead of multiple windows working discreetly in the background, we have an awful race for the foreground - multiple apps are trying to jump up and grab the whole desktop. In direct violation of the lesser known 11th commandment - thou shalt not steal keyboard focus!

        But to spin this as a good thing...

        Yes, well, it could be good for some users. Just leave some choice about it.

      4. david 12 Silver badge

        "...a proper app launcher... All the keyboard shortcuts – which everyone..."

        x-windows was never a superior interface. Not a bad first shot. Good enough for people who learned that interface first. But not 'better'.

        >"textbooks on this... written as far back as the late '60s"

        exactly. Textbooks written in the 60s.

        At the same time that the world is moving to iOS and Android, MS is overrun with people who studied C++ and *nix at school, and they've imposed their command line & x-windows design criteria on what was previously a successful main-stream business.

      5. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: A fine line between Vision and Arrogance @Sean Timarco Baggaley

        >All the keyboard shortcuts – which everyone calling themselves a seasoned veteran or professional should know – are unchanged.

        Obviously not a real fan and convert to the Windows GUI... If I remember correctly MS stopped promoting the keyboard shortcuts when it released Windows 95 et al. previously keyboard shortcut crib cards, they were intended to perch on the keyboard above the function keys, were included with Windows 3.n and the Office applications. The keyboard shortcuts were retained in Win95 to make it easier for Win3.n users to feel at home but MS didn't expect users in general to know about them. Hence in some respects it is a bit odd that Win8 retains this legacy UI feature, but not the more recent classic shell...

        As for remembering all the shortcuts, well no. As a 'seasoned' professional (I've used 'Office' since the 80's), I found it easier to use the menu's because of constantly switching between differing (MS and non-MS) applications, plus when supporting end users, keyboard shortcuts are a bit 'magical' particularly when dealing with the ribbon interface, whereas directing them to use the menu's/ribbon helped them to find their way around.

  5. Steve Todd

    There's part of the Jobs philosophy that MS need

    And this conflicts with what the article thinks entirely. Microsoft need to start thinking of new ideas on their own. Just providing their customers what they are asking for isn't the way to riches and long life, the current boom in tablets shows this. They need to be out there coming up with new classes of thing that users didn't realise they wanted or was even possible.

    To go back to the common car analogy, before the car was the horse drawn buggy. Microsoft's current strategy is to make better buggies, and to strap 2 stroke motors to the back of some of them. They need to be getting in to proper car design and manufacture while working out how to give the world jetpacks.

  6. Tannin
    WTF?

    It has? Who? And how many?

    Metro "has earned a strong core of vociferous evangelists not unlike the turn of the millennium Macolytes".

    It has? Really? First I've heard of it. Oh, there is a handful of Metro fanbois here on the Reg forum - but I do mean a handful, and they are pretty much absent most everywhere else. Then there are the rather more numerous ones (here and elsewhere) who don't much care for Metro but are resigned to using it because they have to; some of this as-yet smallish group has even gone so far as to have discovered the odd Metro feature that they like, but that certainly doesn't make them "strong evangelists". And then there is everyone else - and now we are talking serious numbers - with the usual range of opinions from "not much good" through "lousy" right up to "worse than Stoned, Code Red, or Netsky".

    Sorry, the "strong core of evangelists" line just doesn't wash. We would need some pretty solid evidence before swallowing this outlandish claim.

    (PS: I apologise for picking up on just this one point from a fairly lengthy article, but it stands out like the dog's proverbials and makes it a bit hard to swallow the remainder of the content - given this whopper, one thinks, what other untruth lurk within?)

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: It has? Who? And how many?

      Metro works very well on Windows Phone, and it works well enough on Surfaces and other Windows tablets. Metro is the wrong interface for PCs with large, multiple screens, and servers. I can't understand, for example, why they forced it also on Windows Server 2012.

      The wrong idea is "one UI fits all". Tiles could have some places in a desktop PC too - think about a "lock screen" which allows you to see updates for the apps you need (of course, if you're in a safe place where those info couldn't be seen by the wrong person) or something alike, but not the way to navigate through applications. If Tiles in Windows 8 on PCs were just an optional feature, people would have welcome there.

      1. Jim 59

        Re: It has? Who? And how many?

        For anyone who has just bought a Windows 8 machine -> press Win-d and it switches to being a normal PC desktop.

        Windows 8 is fine. MS's only mistake was to set the default to Metro with a shortcut to conventional desktop, rather than the other way round. Phablet should default to Metro, PC should default to desktop. Simple.

    2. Bootman

      Re: It has? Who? And how many?

      Metro for many users is a term of abuse in its own right, on par with Windows ME and Vista (perhaps slightly unfairly in my opinion, as early versions of XP were also crap until service packs came in).

      Had Microsoft produced full featured programs such as Office in Metro from the start, and not made it a requirement to use the Microsoft Store to sell and distribute Metro programs, it may not have been such a disaster on the desktop. Developers have little interest in the platform. it may be a bit of a silly example, but the developers of Football Manager 2014 have produced mobile IOS, and Android versions, but nothing for RT / Metro - the Windows version is a 'legacy' application. Hell, they even consider it worthwhile to do a Linux port, the idea of big commercial games like that touching Linux was always a nice idea, but now it is becoming a reality. Not good news for "Metro fans".

  7. Sean Timarco Baggaley

    I agree with part of the article: Steve Jobs was exactly what Apple needed in their hour of need, but that's largely due to his previous involvement with the company. The only equivalent for Microsoft would be the return of Bill Gates, who has already made it clear he's not interested in retreading old ground. (For all Jobs' later success, Gates didn't need to mess it up and spend years in the wilderness to learn the necessary skills. Gates nailed if first time around.)

    However, I disagree with the tiresome repetition of a pointless meme: what Apple has is a *gated community*. It's not the walling-in that's the point here, but the *curation*. Android has barely any curation at all, hence its frequent security issues. iOS' App Store, on the other hand, *is* curated, which is less like a gardener wandering around a walled garden and occasionally reacting with an, "OI! Gerroff the lawn!", and more like the guards of a gated community who stop undesirables getting in in the first place. (No, they're not 100% successful, but they're close enough.)

    *

    What Microsoft needs is *focus*. It is making a mistake Apple was making in the mid-90s: it's doing too much. They sell no less than three flavours of desktop Windows, each with multiple variants. They sell server variants too. They make a games console (also with its own OS), they make games, they sell a major office suite, own a bunch of cloud services, and they sell industrial-strength software development tools too. They even make keyboards and mice.

    Jobs was right to slash Apple's massive, and very confusing, product range when he returned: focus is a common factor in very successful businesses. You can't do that when you have a portfolio even wider-ranging than Apple's under Gil Amelio's tenure.

    Unlike Jobs' scorched Apple policy, Microsoft could slash its portfolio by simply spinning off the profitable units into separate entities. Microsoft needs to make itself agile enough to react more quickly and effectively to the ever-changing world of IT – an industry that is, almost by definition, in a state of perpetual transition.

    THAT is the hard part: changing Microsoft's management and corporate structure entirely. Given the present corporate structure, it may be that what Microsoft really needs today isn't so much a Steve Jobs, as a Genghis Khan.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Gates nailed if first time around

      Oh yeah, he really nailed the Internet on his first try - right to the wall.

      Same with tablets. He nailed that to the table and they never took off.

      Gates also nailed the Courier. He nailed it so hard that Allen left the company.

      Gates has his failures, and the absolute worst thing that could happen to MS is that Gates gets involved in future management decisions. He was a successful business man in that he created the most powerful software company in the world, that is undeniable, but that success is like a glacier - you can track its progress by counting the litter it leaves in its wake.

      I do fancy a Genghis Khan heading Microsoft though - as long as he directs his beheadings to his own personnel.

      What ? You don't want to put a proper Start Menu on Windows 8.2 ? <thwack!><thud><roll> Okay, anyone else opposed to that idea ? <silence> Good. Next point : porting DirectX to Linux as an open source project . . .

      1. Wibble
        Pint

        @Pascal Monett: Re: Gates nailed if first time around

        > I do fancy a Genghis Khan heading Microsoft though - as long as he directs his beheadings to his own personnel.

        > What ? You don't want to put a proper Start Menu on Windows 8.2 ? <thwack!><thud><roll> Okay, anyone else opposed to that idea ? <silence> Good. Next point : porting DirectX to Linux as an open source project . . .

        Thanks for the image. Made my day:-)

        Just missing the "Now bring me the guy who came up with the Ribbon idea - and make sure he brings a silver platter"

        3-2-1 back in the room...

  8. John P

    The whole TIFKAM thing personally doesn't bother me, but I get why others don't like it.

    All Microsoft had to do was do exactly as they have on Windows Server. On server, you have the choice of Core, GUI, or a halfway house that keeps MMC but is otherwise GUI-less. If they had done this with Windows 8 and given you a choice of Touch+Classic which would be what we have now, or just Classic, which would be Windows 8 desktop, maybe still with the start screen but without all the rest of the TIFKAM stuff (or even optional Start Menu/Screen), Windows 8 would have been considered a success.

    Just performing a desktop-to-desktop comparison between it and Windows 7, it is faster, uses less resources and has some really nice touches.

    The vision of merging the platforms was a desirable one, but badly implemented. As the author notes, internal fighting between departments completely ruined that vision, meaning it will take them years of unravelling what they now have to achieve what they wanted in the first place.

  9. Sean Timarco Baggaley

    @Buck Futter, Tannin, et al:

    Many people seem to have a problem with Windows 8.x, but I've actually found it's easier to get newbies into it than it was with previous versions. Rather than presenting you with a pretty picture and some cryptic icons, it actually starts with an application launcher that shows a bunch of very clear tiles, each of which tells you what it does and even gives you some basic information before you've even clicked on it.

    As for myself: according to every WIMP GUI rulebook, the GUI is there for *newbies*. Nobody else. Intermediate and advanced users are supposed to learn the bloody keyboard shortcuts!

    If, like me, you had done just that, Windows 8.x would pose no difficulties whatsoever. Want to close an application – or even bring up the shutdown dialog box? ALT+F4. Each new release has added new shortcuts, but many of the existing ones have been there since Windows for Workgroups!

    The problem is that nobody's teaching this any more. When so-called "professionals" proclaim themselves grizzled veterans with umpteen years of expertise in a platform, yet admit to being bamboozled by changes to what is, when you get down to it, a glorified app launcher, you have to wonder what they're teaching kids at university these days.

    Such people are, at best, amateurs, not professionals. Their blatant ignorance of basic GUI usage rules is proof enough of that. If you're still relying heavily on a mouse or trackpad to get your quotidian work done, and you're not an artist or architect, you're doing it wrong. By definition. There are actual textbooks explaining all this.

    That tiled GUI really is piss-easy for neophytes to understand. It's easy to forget that we had to *learn* to navigate the (original hierarchical) menus and drill down to our application – never mind having to remember *which* application we needed to open! Now, my aunt need only look for the "Mail" tile, see that there's a message or three waiting for her, and click on it. It's all there right in front of her. And this is a Good Thing™ as it means she needs to rely rather less heavily on her failing memory.

    iOS and Android – hardly surprising given the former's influence on the latter – led the way, but Windows' ModernUI picked up the widgets idea and ran with it, making it the central feature, but Trevor Potts' point about separating this from the old Windows GUI is a valid one: Windows 8.x is very much a transitional release, and it's likely Windows 9.x will be too, given the glacial pace of upgrading in the corporate field.

    iOS was the first mainstream GUI to break with the old WIMP formula, so the keyboard shortcuts point doesn't apply to that. (Or to Android.) Microsoft also needs to make that transition, but whether beating Windows into submission with the multi-touch GUI stick over a number of transitional releases is the best way to achieve that is a question only the market can answer. In fairness, Windows 8.x is a pretty good choice for people, like myself, who have to do a lot of typing. Some of the hybrid Windows 8 "tabtop" devices out there are a perfect fit for my needs.

    Wacom's Companion Pro (essentially a Wacom digitiser and stylus nailed onto a tablet very similar to the Surface Pro 2) is looking very attractive to me right now. It's flashing its ports seductively at me as I type this. Cease, you Jezebel! You tablet of the night!

    Nurse! The screens!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: @Buck Futter, Tannin, et al:

      Microsoft must be paying by the word today. All that waffle to say that the GUI's wonderful, and any problems the poor bloody users have with it are their own fault for not reading the "WIMP GUI rulebook" and learning reams of keyboard shortcuts? Oh puh-leeze!

    2. Bootman

      Re: @Buck Futter, Tannin, et al:

      Really? I have found that 'newbies' who are exposed to 8 have been in desperation looking for ways to get rid of it, be it asking friends to sort it out, or taking machines down to computer shops to either get them to put 'Windows' (as they know it) back on, or to return the machine. Intermediate users would have sorted out the problem themselves, as they would generally know how to install a Start Menu replacement, or install Windows 7 instead, and advanced users in the main would likely not have touched it in the first place, being happy with Windows 7 Professional, or even giving Linux a go. The sort of user who doesn't need a computer in the first place by now has an iPad or Android tablet.

  10. BobChip
    Windows

    Uncertain futures ......

    A very interesting article, with a lot of interesting insights. It is obviously true that MS have made some very serious mistakes, but then so did Apple, not so long ago. Apple recovered spectacularly. Why? Probably by being clear about the sort of products their customers wanted, and by making products that were, by new technology standards, solid and (mostly) reliable. They were expensive, but they worked in ways that users understood and were comfortable with, and they built a loyal customer base on that.

    Can MS make the same turnaround? After all they have lived with the "good OS bad OS" cycle for decades now, and still made buckets of money. Business as usual, as usual? No. Because, unlike Apple, they have yet to recognise that a turnaround is necessary. And even if they do, their internal culture appears to be so seriously flawed that they will be unable to take the necessary action.

    Apple can sell into a customer base which is comfortable with what it has got, and can be confident that it will still be comfortable with the next iteration in the product cycle. MS used can no longer rely on this. When the customer is not confident, he (and she) is not going to buy. The new CEO is going to have to deal with, simultaneously, a bad OS cycle and a loss in customer confidence. That may be too much to ask.

    Time will tell ......

  11. G 14

    good read

    really enjoyed the article - especially the point about traditional windows users being given a brand new interface for absolute no gain to the end user.

  12. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    Managing changes starts with dissatisfaction

    Trevor, I couldn't agree more. But I thinks it's worth mentioning that the first thing in managing changes is making the people dissatisfied with the current situation. While this is probably part of manage [...] people's rational thoughts, their emotions, and their environment it is a very important step on its own.

    Dissatisfaction can already be there, eg due to a clumsy UI, or it needs to be created first, eg with exposing the users to much better (competitors' or own) UIs. The problem Microsoft had and still has is that a lot of keyboard/mouse users were/are quite happy with the Windows 95 et seqq. interface. For example, speaking of Office, while in my opinion it was never perfect (Open Office provided a more logical menu structure than MS Office 2003), it was good enough to work efficiently. Dissatisfaction started with the ribbons. I know, some people like them, I don't. After quite some time with the "ribbon Office" I still lose considerable time just trying to find some commands.

    So, the dissatisfaction - for keyboard/mouse users - started with the new product, being it ribbons or Windows 8 tiles. It would be a perfect situation for a competitor. Problem is, there is none.

  13. clean_state
    WTF?

    a tablet for windows apps ? really ?

    > "[imagine] a brand new tablet operating system that maintains

    > compatibility with your old Windows x86 apps but

    > goes head-to-head with Android and iOS."

    Yes, Bill Gate's old dream with tablet PCs, Steve Ballmer's with TIKFAM and probably a killer argument in a room full of marketroids. Even this article - otherwise not unreasonable - resurfaces it.

    The reason everyone else is doing a separate system for desktops and another one for phones/tablets is that the problem here is not API compatibility but the UI. An app for tablets needs to work with touch and gesture input while a desktop app needs to be usable with keyboard and mouse. No amount of compatibility API layers are going to make a legacy windows app even remotely usable on a tablet.

  14. Gray
    Holmes

    Elephant graveyard

    If anyone remembers ...

    IBM dominated the business world. Big, beautiful machines with spinning discs and platters in the hallowed temple of the air-conditioned data center.

    Bank after bank of young ladies sitting at card punch terminals.

    Every office that hoped to retain talented secretaries paid a premium price for IBM Selectric typewriters. Nothing less than IBM was acceptable.

    Microsoft is today's IBM. With one profound difference. IBM products were beautiful, had class, were in a class of their own.

    Microsoft has no class, has never had class, and nothing Microsoft has produced could ever be called class. Steve Jobs had it right. Microsoft is all about money, and was never about taste.

    The PC killed IBM as the dominant force in business; the tablet is killing Microsoft today.

    IBM didn't see it coming; refused to acknowledge it when it arrived; and like an elephant, was unable to move quickly enough to escape the stings of the PC hordes.

    Microsoft didn't see Linux and iOS coming; refused to acknowledge them when they arrived; and like an elephant, is stumbling in its clumsiness to catch up while suffering the stings of the hand-held hordes.

    An epiphany: all this upset over Microsoft. In truth, we don't need them. If they don't produce useful stuff, they become irrelevant. If they cannot be consistent in quality, products, or innovation, they deserve to become irrelevant. It isn't like there's nothing else available. If a company is locked into MS products, that's unfortunate. If they are too slow to adopt better tools, perhaps they'll become irrelevant too.

    One thing is certain. Nobody will shed a tear when their failures overwhelm their domination.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Elephant graveyard

      Almost nobody saw Linux coming - you have still an hard time to see Linux on a desktop or laptop unless you live in some really nerd environment. It's much easier to see a Mac running OSX (and often some Windows too..). After almost twenty years, there are still believers Linux will be the Next Great Thing on PCs. If Google was not the data-stealing machine it is needing a free OS (because investing in its own would have reduced revenues) for its data-stealing phones, Linux wouldn't be on phone as well.

      1. fandom

        Re: Elephant graveyard

        Linux may never be the Next Great Thing on PCs, but then Windows was never the Next Great Thing on Mainframes.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: Elephant graveyard

          True. Just while mainframes market shrinks, Windows Server one grows.

  15. majorursa

    Their real enemy is Open Software. They should join the enemy, embrace Linux with their own distro and sell some really good production software licenses for it. That, or perish. Soon.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      What enemy? It's almost 20 years that Linux and Open Source should "kil" Windows, and it never happened. Linux is still crippled by too many distros, desktop managers, lack of *professional* desktop software, and in some cases, even hardware compatibility.

      Office & the server software are huge revenue generators for Microsoft. It's mobile devices now creating troubles for Windows, not Linux or Open Office. MS has no need to embrace Linux - especially since its server OS greatly improved in the past five years.

      Moreover, MS would never embrace something which is under GPL. Nor Apple did, why it chose a *BSD sofware? Because of the license.

      1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

        "Linux is still crippled by too many distros, desktop managers,..."

        Yeah, like teh internet, and teh world, which are crippled by too many people with too many opinions.

        Freedom to fork is a fundamental right. Maybe not for all people, but definitely for some. Right on par with the freedom of speech. Yes, both are sometimes annoying, but I would not have it any other way. There has been too much oppression in the past, too much dark ages to remember. Never again.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Ask yourself why there are bodies like ANSI, DIN, ISO, etc. Sometimes standardization is what you need - because if everybody started to "fork" screw and threads, for example, instead of standardizing it, it would have been a nightmare, not a "better world". It's not a "dictatorship", it's just a clever idea to ensure compatibility.

          Freedom of speech has nothing to do with this, I really can't see why Linux companies can't sit down together and find standards instead of reinventing the wheel each time, with some differences just to feed their ego.

          And because of freedom of choice, don't complain if people keep on using the "bad" Windows instead of the "superior" Linux - it's freedom, isn't it?

          1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

            Standards do exist, even for Linux GUIs. X11 was the standard display server for ages. This was replaced with X.Org. On top of the display server run compositors, Compiz, KWin, Xfwm, Enlightenment (E17) and Mutter. GUIs run on top of those.

            Of those systems, Compiz and KWin are the primary compositors and any app designed for a given compositor should run in any GUI that uses that compositor.

            Compositors are not mutually exclusive. Many KWin apps will run in Compiz and vice the versa. Xfwm and Enlightment apps seem to run just about anywhere and so on and so forth. Why? Because even though there are differences they still do work hard to adhere to standards.

            Right now, the Linux GUI world is undergoing a major shake-up.

            The X.org team has decided that X.org is a piece of crap that needs to be rewritten. So they did. The replacement is called Weyland. The reference implementation is Weston. Critical is that they have jettisoned ridiculous things like "network display", something that hasn't actually existed in X for years but the uninformed and change resistant still wail about being dropped.

            The existing "network display" (which is actually a broken kludge in X.org) is being replaced with an RDP 7 compatible RDP server based on the FreeRDP code. Why? Because RDP is the best and it has become a standard.

            Weyland is already supported in Tizen, with most major distros planning support soon. Major GUI projects such as Enlightenment, Gnome, KDE have planned support. In short: Weyland is the new standard that any rational distribution is migrating to.

            ...but there are irrational ones.

            Canonical has ambitions to be Android. They have a Microsoft-like "we're Steve-Jobs-like visionaries!" arrogance about them. They honestly think Unity is a decent UI. So they aren't moving unity over to Weyland. They writing their own display server called Mir. It's a stupid plan and it will fail horribly.

            Others play it very safe. Look at the Mint developers who write the Cinnamon UI:

            "ATI/nVidia support Xorg, and Xorg is stable and functional. This is what matters to us. A lot of devs are working on Wayland and not on Xorg these days and some Ubuntu devs will probably focus on MIR more than on Xorg going forward. So it’s likely things won’t remain that way indefinitely. With that said we’re not in the business of picking winners. Good luck to both Wayland and MIR in trying to become the next big thing, we’ll look at all that when the time is right."

            I.E. for now, X.org is the standard and has the best support. When Weyland is out of Alpha and most of the heavy lifting is done, they'll probably port Cinnamon to it. (If they don't, they can kiss their UI goodbye.)

            This is how standards work in Linux. Democracy. I can run a Gnome app on Cinnamon no problem. I can probably run it in XFCE and KDE as well. Hard work goes into that kind of support. But I do get to choose my UI. The guts underneath it all is very modular and changes either have strong community support or they get forked.

            X11 doing stupid things? Fork it and create X.org. X.org getting crusty? Fork it and make Weyland. The bulk of the community will move towards a single solution, or at worst two or three.

            The only real place where a massive diversity exists is UIs. Which, frankly, is as it should be. Everyone is different. We all learn different, understand space and data differently and are more productive on different UIs.

            The interface should be customizable, dynamic and tailored to the user. The plumbing is what needs be standardised...and by and large, it is. Even if that standardisation is "voting with our feet" instead of by fiat.

            And that, sir, is why Linux - and choice - has everything to do with freedom of speech.

          2. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

            "Sometimes standardization is what you need"

            Exactly. Sometimes.

            Standards are a compromise. Attempt to define a set of most essential features/qualities and freeze this set for a considerable time. No doubt that this is a good thing to do. But there will be a time when selected set is inadequate for some new applications. This will bring about a good deal of tensions - some folks are content with the old set, some are not, there are multiple conflicting proposals on the future, etc. And, of course, everyone has some valid arguments to support their case. These are the crossroads where fates are decided, even if not clearly visible at the time.

            "It's not a "dictatorship", it's just a clever idea to ensure compatibility."

            There, on the crossroads, lurks the danger of the dictatorship. When one of the interested parties is too powerful, it may hijack the previously agreed standard, and do away with it. Either making changes unacceptable to others, or extending the freeze period indefinitely.

            That's where right to fork becomes not just necessary, but absolutely crucial.

            As for connection to the freedom of speech - yes, it is a lax one, but remember that oppressive regimes usually suppress any alternate views, and with it, any ways of doing things differently. Freedom of speech is a possibility to say "officially unapproved" things. Freedom of action is a possibility to do those things, and see for yourself, if any good comes out of it. Of course most of the new ideas turn out to be stupid, and their implementations laughable, but without the possibility to experiment (and make mistakes) we don't get major breakthroughs either.

            And here we come to that "reinventing the wheel" argument. What would we do, hypothetically of course, when a major wheelmaker decides to discontinue the familiar round wheels and replace them with neon-coloured square jobs? Do we have the skill to start casting our own, or have we thoroughly forgotten that?

            I'd conclude that keeping some skills sharp is a necessary thing, even if it seems folly to someone else.

        2. Gray

          Freedom to fork

          +1 ... and an upvote.

          The ability to fork and customize Linux allowed the City of Munich to liberate themselves from the Microsoft Tarpit of Entanglement, despite ongoing FUD attacks from HP/MS ... including a personal visit from Ballmer and a promise of a 'discount' that was a thinly-disguised bribe not to switch.

          Great article here: http://www.techrepublic.com/article/how-munich-rejected-steve-ballmer-and-kicked-microsoft-out-of-the-city/

          Critics failed to realize that Munich took a long-term approach (a concept highly discouraged in the US by Wall Street and political pressures: short term gains override long-term considerations) and used the switch-over to overhaul their entire IT structure from top to bottom.

          This will never happen in the US, until MS finally collapses like a huge tree rotted from the inside out, and the entire business and government sector are left to deal with the carnage of their abandoned IT infrastructure. Freedom in the Land of the Free? Fuggidaboutit.

  16. Longrod_von_Hugendong

    There was only 1...

    Steve Jobs - so don't try to emulate him, you will only fail and people will know - be your own man.

    That type of approach for M$ is wrong anyway they need someone who can manage the company and not look like a twat doing it - they need to look competent, that is what M$ has been missing for a long time.

    If your name is Chip - change it, or if its a shortened version of something - make people use your full name, on pain of death, cos you instantly have no credibility, that is not a name, its a potato product.

    Also slap your parents.

  17. Philippe
    Go

    Elop Elop Elop...

    What they need is Stephen Elop.

    I can see it not.

    Burning platform, switch to Linux, a couple of so so products and bought by Oracle in 3 years time.

    1. Craig Cruden

      Re: Elop Elop Elop...

      By the time Elop took over the helm of Nokia the damage was already done. Symbian was junk, it would have taken years to do an internal replacement - there were only Android and Windows Phone as replacements.... Android was already overcrowded with companies that would have been hard to compete against (Samsung), Windows Phone looked like it could be promising and if not (first in if successful they would have been the market leaders in that niche) - they could divest themselves to Microsoft. He did as well as was possible with what he had to work with - and the shareholders should be thankful for what he was able to rescue for them. Elop's willingness to cut things that are sacred cows might actually be what Microsoft needs. They might have been better companies if Microsoft was forced to break itself up a decade ago.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Elop Elop Elop...

        Symbian Belle was on a par with Android 4 in terms of usability and its replacement Meego was done (insofar as updatable software is done) and shipped in a working product but both were shitcanned by Flop. Windows Phone 7.0 was barely finished yet was made Nokia's exclusive platform. Later events also lend weight to the Trojan horse theory.

  18. I Should Cocoa!
    Devil

    Just back from a year off (no, not chokey). Seems to me the foisting on (the captives) of TIFKAM would parallel Windows no longer enabling email 'because everyone uses Twitter'.

    I see STB is still dribbling shite on the subject.

    So, Steve Jobs still dead then?

    1. I Should Cocoa!

      Hey, you can vote here without moving away from the comments!

      This must be how De Niro felt when Robin Williams gave him L-dopa. It's like a different world! And I don't mean Mars.

  19. Craig Cruden

    They need someone who is not afraid to crush internal empires and who is not afraid to divest the company of trying to be everything to everyone. They have lost out on many trends because they are killed off internally by fiefdoms like the Windows division which thinks any underlying technology should be Windows - which is why Windows 8 is not focused as a desktop operating system or a tablet operating system. They need someone who will protect budding projects and defend them against other divisions until they have a chance to mature and come to market -- not get knocked off because some other division thinks that is their sole domain. Microsoft's R&D budget dwarfs Apples, and yet Apple has been succeeding where Microsoft has been failing. There are very few Jobs in the world and they tend to be empire builders that eventually hand off companies to mature management then go back and build something new..... Looking for a Jobs is a futile task.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There's nothing wrong with having the decent management structure and focus of Jobs.

    It's just Microsoft used to be more open and an alternative to the Apple proprietary world.

    These days they're almost worse as they're locking down their computers like tablets.

  21. Ian 55

    Microsoft chose instead to attempt to leverage the Windows brand name to drive buy-in

    They've got form for that. Cough, Windows Mobile, cough.

  22. druck Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Secure software, my arse!

    Microsoft devoted itself to security and over the course of a decade became a world leader in secure software design and implementation

    You forgot to flag that comment Doctor Who @ 50 and in an alternative universe...

  23. Mr. Peterson

    MS's future was sealed when,

    for whatever reason(s), MS failed to retain Alex St. John

  24. PeterI

    TIKFAM

    Discussed this the other week in the pub. Biggest problem is that they never did a back port of TIFKAM to earlier versions of windows (7 at least, Vista maybe?)

    Microsoft tried with WPF to make it Vista or higher. Like many other developers I moaned at Microsoft DPEs about this and eventually the decision to do a back port to XP was taken. They have made the same mistake this time and didn't correct themselves.

    As a developer my choices are HTML/CSS/JS in a web browser where OS versions don't matter, WPF / Winforms / MFC for a desktop application which will work on everything from XP upwards and finally TIFKAM which will only works on Windows 8. If it's a corporate application it's likely the desktop will be Windows 7 (the new XP)

    If Microsoft back ported to Windows 7 a version of TIFKAM then I'd think about developing for it but until then I'm ignoring it as a waste of my time.

    After buying a new laptop for home use (Lenovo Yoga) recently when it's in tablet mode the TIFKAM does actually make a reasonable experience (and the existing windows desktop was never going to provide that), the shame is when I'm in "laptop" mode it feels "clunky" as I find the switch from desktop to menu jarring. I'm going to keep trying until after Christmas particularly as this time I have a touchscreen but I suspect I'll probably give in and install a start menu replacement.

  25. Magnus_Pym

    Visionary?

    The problem is they always thought they were Steve Jobs'. They all thought they were high tech visionaries and technical vanguards when in fact all the real profit comes from old fashioned hard-ball business practices. Very early on Microsoft found a way to market software that sold the product but retain all the rights and they set up a legal framework to enforce it. It's this licensing model that makes all the profit not technical leadership. In fact it works against it. They absolutely had to stifle any innovation that threatened the Windows+PC+network+peripheral model because the model only works if you have enough leverage.

    There used to be a wall of money large enough to prevent the real world entering castle Redmond. That is no longer the case. Whoever gets the job they will need to live in the real world or die in the imaginary one.

  26. Robert Grant

    $1000s to replace apps?

    I doubt many people are in that position. Thousands to replace the total number of apps they've ever bought? Possible, though still very, very unlikely for most. Thousands to replace the apps they still use? Never. Cost to switch is actually quite low, and if you're switching from an iProduct then you have all that disposable income to play with.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: $1000s to replace apps?

      RTFA. Apps and devices. And every single iOS or Android user I've encountered in the past 12 months with whom I've discussed the topic (at least 100 people by now) has had well over $100 in just applications alone. Many have had several hundred, especially tablet users.

      Get into media libraries and you can cheerfully get into the thousands, for the iOS types, without getting into devices.

      Apps are getting more capable and more expensive and many people are buying them. Just as it was on the PC. The longer this goes on, the higher the barrier to switching.

      "Does the Surface have X app?" Even *if* the answer to all apps required is "yes", after running the numbers on what rebuying everything - from apps to devices - is going to cost, I've not seen a single person switch ecosystems. Not from iOS to Android, not from Android to iOS and nobody has gone back to Microsoft after they've left.

      I've been purposefully looking for this information. Collecting data since at least March. (Got interested int eh topic when I was in Redmond.) My methodology and sample size are not absolutely conclusive, but they are good enough to convince me that a larger and more detailed effort would validate the hypothesis presented.

      1. Robert Grant

        Re: $1000s to replace apps?

        Oh well that's crazy then - generally this consideration comes up when someone wants a new device, and the debate is over whether to get a new iDevice, or go to another ecosystem and rebuy paid-for apps that they still use. That's the time most people make the decision, outside of the techo chamber.

        I'm saying that for a huge number of people, that cost: $cost_of_apps_i_still_use - $apple_tax is close to zero, if not massively in the negative. My mother-in-law owns an iPad Mini and only uses it for Facebook, email and Candy Crushers. Literally got three apps on there.

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: $1000s to replace apps?

          For some people the cost is low. Certainly not for all, I doubt even for "most" and absolutely not for the "high value eyeballs" that everyone wants to capture. Your Aunt Tilly isn't representative of the world at large...and certainly not representative of the chunk of it that companies aim to monetize.

  27. All names Taken

    A biggest fear?

    Do you think MS and/or the Apple might be 3 generation concerns?

    Explanation

    Some startups blossom, go from founder to founders offspring and start to lose a bit of turnover with increased costs squishing returns to shareholders.

    By the time founders offsprings offspring takeover the concern is losing vital viabilties and soon ceases to exist as a separate commercial entity?

  28. DougS Silver badge

    People are not nearly as locked in to iOS and Android as the author believes

    Maybe it would cost hundreds for HIM to re-buy apps, but the average person doesn't spend a whole lot on apps. There isn't much stopping the average iPhone or Android user from going in the other direction when they buy a new phone or tablet. There is some relearning of how to do things, but for the most part, despite claims to the contrary by flaming fanboys, you can mostly do the same sort of things in the same sort of way on each.

    If you look at the stats/surveys some number of iPhone users switch to Android (mostly due to cheaper alternatives on Android and/or the availability of larger phones) and a somewhat larger number of Android users switch to iPhone (mostly due to issues with their previous Android phone) These people, who together account for nearly 1/3 of smartphone purchases in the US, don't seem to find any particular barrier to switching.

    In either case, if the experience isn't what they thought it would be, they are highly likely to switch back again in the future - whatever barriers the author believes exist due to apps would exist even less for these people who have already owned one of each and perhaps paid for their most wanted apps on both sides of the fence.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: People are not nearly as locked in to iOS and Android as the author believes

      I have looked at stats, and asked a lot of people, talked to experts.

      You would have been correct if we were having this discussion in 2010. In 2013, a huge number (100% of my sample size and over 50% of mainstream, according to the last stats I had checked) had over $100 in apps.

      Factor in the cost of devices and rebuying (in some cases) your media and suddenly it's expensive enough to deter people from shifting. Your numbers are simply out of date. App prices are going up. People are buying far more apps, and tablet users especially are buying more expensive, complicated applications that drive the average app loadout far - far - above the "nobody buys apps, Q_Q" surveys of a few years ago.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: People are not nearly as locked in to iOS and Android as the author believes

        Who are you surveying? Certainly not average users. More likely people in the IT industry, or early adopter types who are on their 4th smartphone by now.

        I know only a few people who have spent that much (nor have I) and I work in the IT industry where you'd think people who are buying all these expensive apps are more likely to be.

        If average app spending was $100, you can do a little math using Apple's statement back in June that they'd paid out $10 billion to developers through the App Store. The developers get 70%, which means the total app sales were a bit less than $14 billion. If the average iOS user had spend $100 on apps, that adds up to 140 million iOS users. Oops, too bad Apple just reported they had sold their 700 millionth iOS device in September. Seems your numbers are WAY off!

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: People are not nearly as locked in to iOS and Android as the author believes

          I am surveying power users, certainly. I never once claimed that all users fell into the "costs hundreds to switch" category. You inferred more than was stated.

          A significant portion, however, certainly do have over $100 in apps...some of those apps being made by Apple themsleves. (Thus wouldn't be paid out to developers.) iWork was a frequently purchased Major Application, weighing in at between $60 and $79 depending on purchase price! (And there's *still* no decent office package for Android!)

          iWork uptake is significant amongst business users of iDevices. It was the #1 most frequently purchased app amongst those I surveyed. I emphatically did not restrict my survey to IT types, however, I very much so did survey individuals who were using their devices for work purposes.

          The cost of switching apps alone for someone who is using the device primarily as a phone may not be that high, however, amongst phone-dominant mobile users I found that there was a significant usage of apps with no direct port to alternative ecosystems. This presented as strong a barrier as the cost of moving.

          I also stated in my comments that the cost to move was predominantly from tablet users, as they buy more applications...which was also the focus of the article, as - quite frankly - tablets are where the money is in mobile. (The Smarphone market having largely been saturated, with new acquisitions predominantly coming from the poor who aren't much of a consideration anyways.)

          Phones fall into two categories: individuals who purchase high-end phones outright and treat them like tablets (mostly Samsung users with Phablet-class devices) and contract-clangers.

          Contract-clangers don't buy apps. They don't buy phones, either. They get a phone tied to the cycle of their contract and mostly seek out low-end-or-free stuff. They're cheap, and - to be blunt about it - they have fuck-all for disposable income. They are not using "a smartphone." They have an MP3 player with a web browser that can type texts and make phone calls. They emphatically do not use it as a portable general computing device and won't for at least another refresh, probably two or three. This category or user is completely irrelevant. There's no money here unless you're Google and going to advertise at them.

          "I bought my phone outright" types typically can be lumped in with tablet users. They purchase applications. They use the device for more than just web browsing, Youtube and listening to MP3s. This is where the money is. It's also where the business usage of mobile devices comes in...and this category is fucking exploding at the moment. (Though that will change soon. Growth will taper off in two or three years.)

          While survey work leads to generalisations and generalisations by definition don't address edge cases the following is largely true:

          1) People who don't buy a lot of apps predominantly are "phone" users that treat their device as an MP3 player with benefits.

          2) This category of people don't have money to spend and aren't worth chasing unless you have a long term strategy based on locking them in (or are advertising at them.)

          Microsoft is never going to convert this group because:

          1) This would require Microsoft to have a coherent long term strategy to attract, retain and then monetise the milled masses of people with negligible incomes

          2) This would require Microsoft give lots of useful software away for free that would be better than what Apple and Google are giving away for free

          3) Every passing day has the user's data increasingly integrated into someone else's ecosystem

          4) Even a few low-cost apps are a barrier to changing providers if you have little money and the devices cost roughly the same

          5) Familiarity with UI and extended ecosystem apps becomes a factor holding even "cheap-o" smartphone types in place

          6) "Cool factor"

          So you, personally may be both a Microsoft fanboy and have no problem moving from A to B. You are an edge case.

          Device and ecosystem loyalty is strong, especially amongst tablet users and high-value smartphone users. It is increasingly strong amongst the low-end as well, though the reasons become less economic as you move down the value chain.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Re: People are not nearly as locked in to iOS and Android as the author believes

            I'm not suggesting Microsoft is going to convert many iOS or Android users - the reasons you listed being a good bunch of reasons why. But even more than that, the fact they still only know how to follow and not to lead into new territory. For example, they STILL don't understand that people don't want a tablet that's pretty much identical to a laptop except lacking a keyboard - so much so that they couldn't help themselves but add a keyboard cover and then claim it as some kind of big deal that was going to lead to success for Surface. Nevermind that such a thing had been available for the iPad from third parties within a year of the iPad 1's debut and never was and still isn't a big seller (nor are they big sellers for Android tablets)

            However, I think it is easier to switch between iOS and Android than you imply, though perhaps not for business users, who will probably end up locked in by their corporate IT who won't want to support both, or won't support both equally as well. For power users, yeah, something like iWork isn't going to carry over to Android, but to me "power user" implies that they actually do real work with their device. Use it a tool, more than a toy/passive entertainment device like most people. If you find a better tool that makes you more productive, you're going to buy, even if there are some added costs to replace a few hundred dollars worth of apps. Otherwise why would these people buy new laptops before the old one died? They do it because (at least in the past) it was much faster and led to increased productivity.

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              Re: People are not nearly as locked in to iOS and Android as the author believes

              Um, where the fuck have you been for the past ten years?!?!

              People who buy a new laptop/PC/etc for reasons other than "it died" are in the extreme minority and have been for at least ten years.

              You sound like you are morally offended by the concepts under discussion - "Use it a tool, more than a toy/passive entertainment device like most people. If you find a better tool that makes you more productive, you're going to buy, even if there are some added costs to replace a few hundred dollars worth of apps." - rather than actually looking at proven purchasing behaviors of consumers and businesses alike over the past few decades.

              You, personally may lack loyalty or change resistance. The market as a whole does not...and it is price sensitive enough that - with the exception of large enterprises and governments - "a few hundred bucks worth of apps" per node is more than enough to prevent change, even in a business.

  29. hungee

    the truth.

    The reality of the phase we are going through right now is that it is an intermediate phase.

    Now is the time for an outrageous statement!

    MOBILE COMPUTING HAS STILL NOT DELIVERED ON ITS CORE OBJECTIVE!

    how outrageous you say?

    Not really. Just the reality. Sure, I have a nexus 5, a nexus 7, laptops, and my girlfriend has an iPhone and iPad and you know what. None of it delivers anything more than a compromise. Every piece is limited or locked in, spying on me, or patented in such a way as to limit choice.

    I for one will welcome the day when my computer fits in my pocket. when I can plug my phone into a desktop station and have it perform complex creative tasks the likes of a full workstation.

    It just hasn't happened. It may never do, but I am sick of pretending that these compromises are anything but compromises. "design decisions" - bullshit. You just can't make it yet.

    It looks like we are several Ticks away. maybe at the 7nm spec we will get there but untill then...

    As to microsoft.. They just need to go there. And (i think) there are people there that know it.

  30. Goat Jam

    Isn't Bill Gates Microsoft's Steve Jobs?

    Only without the taste?

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Isn't Bill Gates Microsoft's Steve Jobs?

      Aye...and he would run that company right into the fucking ground if he took over today.

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